Compelling Consistency and Kambipaagu

Compelling Consistency and Kambipaagu

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.

– Bernard Berenson

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the word ‘consistency’ is the kambipaagu consistency of jaggery that my grandmother taught me while making Ariselu or Athirasam (A sweet from south India, golden brown, melting in the mouth. Well, death as small disks). Nowadays the word has become a part of standard corporate mantra or strategy – “you need to be a consistent performer”, “we deliver results consistently”, “my boss is consistently being an ass” etc.

From the mundane kitchens to the happening corporate life, consistency manifests itself in various forms, in varied places. No matter where it manifests and is experienced, consistency brings a comfortable rhythm, a pattern which gives the ease that change just cannot deliver or provide.

This blog is a tribute and celebration to the many consistencies that have become life and beyond.

Recently, one of my friends attended an interview in a reputed organization based in India. She was puzzled when she was quizzed about 10th grade, pre-university, and degree scores for a good 30 minutes of the interview, and mind you this was not an entry-level position. When she inquired about this, they informed that the company looks for academic consistency right from 10th grade and wants to select candidates who are consistent performers only. Some stiff-necked or cervical spondylitis-affected, late-fifties’ aunty or uncle must have gotten that ridiculous rule introduced; and by following it so carefully, the message being sent out loud is that if we failed in 10th standard, then there is no getting away. He/she will have to stay there licking wounds lifelong!

The personification of consistency is our opposite sex, men and their predictability – they beat all avatars of consistency. We were on a safari in the forests of Nagarhole National Park, in Karnataka, hoping to spot predators. “Well, what will we do if they turn wild and attack us instead of some meek deer?” My question was left hanging in the thick beetle-ringing air. To our disappointment, the tiger declined the meeting invite. As we were driving aimlessly, spotted under a lush green tree beside a smooth rock, a peacock dancing as four peahens were watching; the peacock turned, swirled and twirled its magnificent splendour in time with some cosmic tune that we were too deaf to hear. We watched in awe, as mesmerized as the peahens. In that magical moment, a friend who was trying hard to capture the timelessness of nature through his fancy Nikon 80-400mm lens quipped, “Well, if four women are watching, even I would not mind dancing!” The four women would mind, I am sure!

Change, of course, is a constant in life; but in our very limited knowledge of the great cosmos, we constantly seek patterns even in that change, looking for some uniformity – a consistent change, if you will. While what we seek eludes us, some ‘consistent changes’ come to us willingly. Every so often, I step onto that weighing machine, hoping against hope that the extra piece of Kaju Katli or chocolate pastry or chakkara pongal I ate has managed to directly convert into the metaphysical consciousness of being and essence! But the Kaju Katli strategically settles, comfortably converts to physical being, resting and collecting its own identity and weight, tipping the scales and laughing the wicked laugh when I climb onto them next time; body mass consistently keeps increasing, true to the many theories of physics learnt and unlearnt in the past.

Talking of theories, I have come up with one of my own – Lal’s 3 Factor Theory of Consistent Corporate Ironies. Postulated after empirical studies of kindred spirits

(n>30), the theory proposes that ironies across the 3 important factors in one’s work-life are confounding but consistent.

At the time of promotions, you find yourself at the bottom of the pyramid, because someone else is more critical, more experienced, or simply more adept at all those coffee table discussions. When it comes to increments, you are on the side-lines of the pyramid, because the limited budgets of your boss have a need to be used wisely to reward those decisive performers who are vital. However, when there is work to be done on a war footing, it always finds its way down to your desk; and you find yourself dancing all over the pyramid, jumping up and down, trying to ensure that the fire is quenched before it burns everyone. The theory proved accurate and consistent again and again.

When innovation trumps the world with its unpredictability and glitter and captures all the limelight, what keeps the world sane, real and predictable is consistency – earth’s consistent fascination in going round and round, heart beating consistently those stupid dreams, pink, mauve, blue, and consistent beliefs and rituals! Jai ho!

Sunitha Lal is a Human Resources professional and organizational culture expert, based out of Bangalore. She has over 25 years of experience spanning diverse industries and geographies. Because of her keen interest in understanding human behavior, she views organizational dynamics through the lens of behavioral science, psychology, and anthropology.  


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